James Whitton Aikman (born 1959, Indianapolis) Composer, Electronic Musician. Aspen Music School Alum, with advanced degrees from Indiana University (D.Mus'93, M.Mus'88); Butler University (B.Mus.1981); Royal Conservatorie, The Hague.   Student of Louis Andriessen, Michael Schelle, Harvey Sollberger, Earle Brown, Donald Erb and Frederick Fox.


Currently Composer-in-Residence with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra (2013-2018, extended through 2020), JAMES AIKMAN and his music have quietly, consistently received prestigious honors, awards, fellowships, grants, and notable performances for several decades. Ever since Joshua Bell and Charles Webb performed and recorded Aikman’s first violin sonata while Bell and Aikman were students at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music during the 1980s, each Aikman piece has continued to evoke a particular musical image with its own distinct, emotive effect. His music has variously been described in periodicals such as Fanfare Magazine, Gramophone: Sounds of America, The Strad, and the New York Times, as “richly sonorous,” “fascinating and inventive,” “plaintively beautiful,” “exciting, inventive and fresh!“ Reviewing Aikman’s ‘Venice of the North Concerti’ for Naxos American Classics, Lawrence Vittes of Gramophone wrote: “This could easily be a best-seller in the USA if there were any mechanism to make innovative American composers the talk of the town.”

In addition to early piano lessons and a great public school music program, James Aikman credits his early experience in electronic music for helping him develop a strong sense for instrumental color that was a natural outgrowth of the rich palette of sounds discovered in the studio. Ironically, his first significant success was found in purely acoustic music. Aikman's first Sonata for Violin and Piano was composed for the first laureate of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, Mihaela Martin, who stayed with Aikman's family during the competition.

His sonata won the 1987 Carmichael Competition. Immediately thereafter, Aikman's electro-acoustic music collaboration with Armando Tranquilino, Tragoidia/Komoidia (1987), garnered first prize in the 1988 Groupe de Musique Experimentale de Bourges and was recorded on CD with support of the French Ministry of Culture. Aikman's first orchestral piece, A Bottle of Notes and Some Voyages (1988), took the Dean's Prize at Indiana University, was supported by an American Music Center Grant (1989), and was performed by the New World Symphony during the American Symphony Orchestra League's American Repertoire Concert Series (1991).

During 1990 -1991, James Aikman was a Master Artist Fellow with support from the Indiana Arts Commission. During this time, Aikman wrote works that later won national acclaim: Spring is purple jewelry (1990) won the 1995 G. Schirmer Young American Art Song Competition and was performed by multiple Grammy-Award winning vocalist Dawn Upshaw in her Carnegie Hall debut with pianist Gilbert Kalish in 1997, while Glossolalia (1991) was awarded the International Society for Contemporary Music's National Award, New York, 2000. James Aikman became a Fulbright Fellow in Music Composition (1993-1994) and traveled to Amsterdam, Holland where he was a private student of one of the world's foremost composers, Louis Andriessen, through the auspices of the Royal Conservatorie.

Upon returning to the United States, James Aikman became a Fellow in Music Composition with the Michigan Society of Fellows (1996-1999, Ann Arbor). Aikman completed music for his first solo CD, White Sunday Light, a compilation of works written during his fellowship which were recorded by members of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Aikman was concurrently named Composer-In-Residence with Cathedral Arts of Indianapolis (1996 - 2000).

During this time, however, tragedy struck. Aikman's wife, pianist Deanna Aikman, was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease in August of 1997. Thus, with three young children (ages 7, 4, and 6 months at that time), James Aikman faced the challenge of a lifetime. Since then, he has simultaneously raised successful children, continued to write music, lectured on various musical topics, composed, conducted and produced CDs, while caring for, and overseeing the care for, his terminally ill wife.

Throughout resultant financial difficulties covering Deanna's 24/7 care, pre-ACA, and the associated incredible life struggles, Aikman persevered in composing. Supportive counsel from family, friends and colleagues made it possible.

His work continues to receive awards for its "unique prestige value!" Collaborating with the ICO, Aikman's first work for the orchestra resulted in the board supporting the first professional recording by the ICO. Though the ICO concerts regularly air on American Public Media (NPR), "Triptych: Musical Momentum" (Albany Records, 2015) is the first commercially released record by the ICO and includes the title work by Aikman and current music by Derek Bermel, Michael-Thomas Foumai, and Christopher Theofanidis. Aikman's "Peacemakers" a tribute to great 20th-21st century peacemakers, is a 90-minute oratorio with visuals, speeches and written words of Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, JFK, MLK, RFK, Rabin, Mandela, and Carter. The work earned a Masterpiece Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission, was named a Legacy Project by the State of Indiana Bicentennial Commission, and won 3 regional Special Event Emmy®Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Aikman's most recent work, Viola Concerto, was composed for and premiered by Csaba Erdéyi in 2018, receiving immediate, genuine audience and critical acclaim.

"To create, to seek one's true potential, requires effort, consistent and dedicated. To write music is an honor. Too many take the art for granted, thus reducing its quality and its impact on humanity. We have a duty to aspire to the greatness that has been passed to us throughout the ages, in all fields of endeavor, in order to relay these ideas and standards to the future." - James Aikman

Describe your music

Viola Concerto (2017-18)
Peacemakers: An Oratorio (2014-2016)
Saxophone Concerto with Symphonic Wind Ensemble (2015)*
Triptych: Musical Momentum (2014)
Light of Life (2013) video of concert with Robert Spalding Newcomb and Ken Kozora
To the Passage of Time (2012) duo structured improvisations with RSN
Great Spirit (2011-2012) for Native Flute, Electronic Media and Narrator
Saxophone Concerto (2010) (with orchestra)*
Violin Concerto (2009)
Sax Grooves (2009) electronic media
Tempus Fugit for Orchestra (2008)
House Music for Uncle Don (2008) electronic media in memoriam, Donald Erb
Postlude for Organ (2008) commissioned by Gregory Hamilton
Elegy for Viola (2008)
Some Things I Love (2007) for Chorus, Soloists, and String Orchestra based on seven poems by the 39th President of the United States and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, JIMMY CARTER, with his permission.

Further listings of prior pieces and